Bloemfontein - A 26-year-old manager of a farm near Ficksburg in the Free State has been shot in the head and airlifted to a hospital in Bethlehem, the South African Police Service said on Friday.

Colonel Thandi Mbambo said police were alerted to the shooting on Thursday evening. When police arrived at Mooiplaas farm they found that the farm manager and a worker had been accosted and attacked by an armed gang.

"Mr Aarend Covert, 26 years old, was shot in the head and had to be airlifted to Bethlehem Medi-Clinic Hospital in a serious condition ... whereas the farm worker Lenyara Tsotetsi had defensive stab wounds in the arms," said Mbambo. 

The pair had just returned from a neighbouring farm when they were confronted by five unknown males. 

Mbambo said the gang told them not to get out of the vehicle, but Covert disembarked. "A scuffle ensued and he was shot in the forehead, whilst the farm worker was stabbed whilst trying to defend himself from the knife-wielding suspects."

The stabbed worker managed to run away causing the gang members to panic and flee. As they fled for the mountains they dropped a revolver, said the colonel.

"Two badly injured suspects were handed over to the police by farmers and arrested," said  Mbambo, adding that the injured pair were taken to Dihlabeng Hospital in Bethlehem, where one of them died. 

The other injured suspect remains in hospital under police guard. 

"Police and the farmers are still on the lookout for the remaining three suspects and a case of attempted murder has been registered for further investigation."